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Coronavirus: How to spot a work-from-home scam

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
There are several scams that job seekers may encounter. (Getty)

With many people experiencing redundancy and job loss and quarantined in their homes, a lot of people are looking for remote working jobs to bring in an income.

Although more businesses are allowing employees to work flexibly, including from home, not all job listings are legitimate. And with so many people facing an uncertain future, scams are on the rise.

According to research by FlexJobs, there are several common scams that job seekers may encounter. These include data entry scams, pyramid marketing, stuffing envelopes, wire transfers, unsolicited job offers, online re-shipping, rebate processing, assembling crafts and products.

A survey by FlexJobs found that more than 80% of job seekers report being on guard or very concerned about scams on other job boards. In addition, almost 20% of job seekers have been a victim of a job scam, with 22% of job seekers knowing somebody who has been victim of a job scam.

“Given that many states in the US have prohibited non-essential businesses from operating, more people are searching for work-from-home jobs, and scammers are incredibly tuned into the fact that some job seekers are desperate to make money,” says Sara Sutton, founder, and CEO of FlexJobs.

Read more: Five essential apps for freelancers and self-employed people

“These scammers will use this opportunity to pounce on and try to trick new professionals who may not be accustomed to looking for remote jobs. I started FlexJobs in 2007 precisely to fight back against the frustrating and harmful fraudulent scams in the work-at-home job market by providing job seekers with a safe source for legitimate, high-quality remote jobs,” she adds.

“And especially right now as scammers become more sophisticated and see opportunity, it is critical for job seekers to educate themselves on how to stay safe.”

So how can you spot a work-from-home scam?

Some scammers are more subtle and less easy to identify, but a sense of urgency is usually a warning sign. If the recruiter is pushing you to accept the job immediately, it may well be a scam.

You should also never be asked for personal financial information early on in the job interview process, such as your bank account details, your home address and phone number or your date of birth. You should never be asked to pay anything up-front.

Read more: How to protect yourself from a bank fraud

Very occasionally, you might find a work-from-home job that is legitimate. But if the job pays a lot of money for little work, it is probably too good to be true. Fraudsters often recruit for a so-called dream job, advertising roles with a very high starting salary that require few qualifications, skills or experience. 

You should also check the company’s website, if it exists. And if the job posting mentions quick money, ‘get rich’ schemes or has any obvious spelling or grammatical errors, it may not be real. It’s also worth checking the contact email address to see if it contains numbers or imitates a real company’s email address format.

When you see a job advert, research the company to see if you can find any information about it or the person who is hiring – to verify if they exist. If they are legitimate, they may be on LinkedIn or other social media sites.

Think about how the person is getting in touch with you, too. Although it’s normal to receive an email initially, any interviews should be carried out by phone or video interview if the work is remote. If someone contacts you via instant messaging or acts unprofessional, they may well be a fraudster.